Friday, September 28, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Well, duh. Summer's over. It's now the Fall Autumn of Steve. However, with my departing Portland and heading home, the walkabout is nearly over. I'm in Get the Hell Home mode right now. I'm tired. I miss my dog. I miss my friends. I miss my Tivo. I miss the Lib.
Hopefully I'll be home by tomorrow.
Let the driving restart. After pretty much staying put for over a week, it’s back on the road. Today, the Xterra and I went from Hood River back to Portland to drop V off at the airport and then to Nampa, Idaho – just outside of Boise.
There was an operator error with the GPS. So no elevation graph. Also, the software has been upgraded, so prettier maps.
My first new activity I had never done was mountain biking. Yes, I've been road biking for 20 years. But despite Big Gulp's numerous invitations, I had yet to hit a trail. After renting bikes at a local shop, Vanessa and I headed to a nearby trail. Things started off pretty rough. I wasn't used to the flexibility of the mountain bike and the path was largely uphill. Once we hit a series of steep switchbacks I said "No mas!", but V headed up for a bit. The downhill trip back was a whole lot of fun, though. I ate it once and almost ate it a couple of other times. As of yet, there is no giant bruise on my ass where that same ass flew off the bike and onto the hard ground on a steep downhill. But, good times, right?
Afterwards we biked to a nearby winery and sampled their wares. The Syrah and Marionberry port were standouts and I bought a bottle of each. The syrah had an interesting flavor with a strong note of pepper. FYI marionberry is not named for the former DC mayor, but is a blackberry first grown in Marion County.
Well it was time for lunch and we sat on the deck of the Three Rivers Inn looking out onto historic downtown Hood River and the majestic Columbia River. In my continuing quest to consume as much of the Pacific Ocean as I can while I was up there, I had the fish and chips with several glasses of a local Pinot Noir from the O'Reilly winery. Both were very good.
While eating, but mostly drinking, we noticed the kites of the board surfers down on the river and suggest we do the second thing I had never done before -- fly a kite. Kites were paper and wood and never flew when I was a kid. Friends would have kites and I never remember them going much about 10 feet. So, I never did it.
Well, as anyone can attest, flying kites not only will fetch a powerful hunger but an even more powerful thirst. And to sate (no, I didn't use the thesauraus) ourselves we climbed up the many stairs to get to Horsefeathers Brew Pub. To my delight, we got there just in time to see the first quarter of the Cowboy/Bears game. After eating (I had the grilled rockfish on a bed israli couscous and several of their IPAs) a quasi-bored V, returned from one of her frequent potty trips with Jenga. That's right, I've never played Jenga. And thus completes my NeverDoneBefore trifecta.
The moral of the story -- you're never too old to learn to fly a kite, play Jenga or fall on your ass.
Monday, September 24, 2007
- A woman at the office Vanessa was auditing suggest these two spot saying that Seaside had more things to do and Cannon Beach was prettier. Unfortunately we went to Seaside first, spent a good deal of time throwing on the beach and even ate. By the time we got to the far superior Cannon Beach, we barely had time for anything. And the restaurant/bar choice looked much more interesting.
- While walking along the Cannon Beach beach toward the giant rock, we noticed a large group of people gathered around something. We wondered what it could be and speculated that it must be a washed up carcass of some sort: a giant jelly fish, a dolphin or even a manatee. As we got closer, we finally got a glimpse of what everyone was huddled around. It was a bride and a groom. So, indeed, there was a dead carcass on the beach that day -- the dead carcass of freedom.
- All the kids in Seaside were extremely tall. I guess they breed for beach volleyball out there.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Friday, September 21, 2007
Today's adventure pretty much kept me in the Portland area. I had to do more laundry and do some shopping. Plus, I had to be in position to watch A & M get their balls handed to them by unranked Miami.
- No pix today and no travel summaries.
- My first stop in shopping was Belmont Station – Portland's premiere beer and wine store. A very friendly older woman (and by older I mean probably my age) helped me with my selections. I was looking for Bear Republic's Hop Rod Rye that I had had at Brouwer's in Seattle. I told her that I had become fond of rye beer since first trying them in Vermont. "Where in Vermont?" she asked. I told her of The Alchemist and she acknowledged that she thought that's what I was talking about. She had been there and loved it, which was cool. So I ended up with six 6-packs and six 22oz bottles, all for only $85. One of the good things about Oregon's is it has no sales tax. So, we visitors can spend and spend and not contribute to their socialist utopia.
- After 15 days of suffering with my pants falling down (I forgot to bring a belt) I found myself near a Burlington Coat Factory. I know you wanted to know that.
- Also in the area of the Burlington Coat Factory was an Old Chicago. For years we would go there after Wednesday night pickup. But it was bought up by the Greeks. So I had to stop by for the local brews, the Italian Nachos and the memories.
- Interestingly, the "Staff Choice" at Old Chicago is Miller Lite. WHAT!?!?!? Well, I had to inquire and the Bartendrix told me they had to do that since they are a sponsor of the Beavers. (mark)
- Just when I think that I might be prancing on the cusp of alcoholism, I see guys hanging out at the Old Chicago bar who are clearly regulars. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's 2:30 in the afternoon.
- At this point, I guess I should have written a separate Old Chicago post, but fuck it.
- This Jewish waitress (she's wearing a Star of David around her neck) keeps sneaking peaks at me while I keep sneaking peaks at her. So, is she thinking "Wow, that guys is super cool/hot." Or "Wow, that guy is really creeping me out with all that peek sneaking." If she is into me, what am I supposed to do? In the movies we would find a broom closet and bang the bejesus out of each other. Also, in the movies, she would be Scarlett Johannson and I would be Jude Law. Or maybe that Mac guy.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Two weeks down, one to go -- Miss Kilgallen.
The desire to come home is starting to grow strong. But a fun weekend in Hood River should cure that.
Today's adventure took me to Mt. Saint Helens, where I had the reaction I thought I would have at the Grand Canyon. "OK. There it is. Let's go home." And this was exacerbated by the 2 hours of mostly mountain driving it took to get there -- and, of course, get back.
- A wolf passed in front of my car going the MSH carrying some entrails in its mouth. Sadly, it all happened too quickly to catch a picture.
- I also saw a chain gang digging a ditch. Yes, we have sunk to this. Quick hits about wolves and chain gang. John from Gustav's was right. Mt. St. Helens isn't that great.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Looking over the wine list I saw the Pinot Evil and giggled. So we got it and it was very good; and amazingly cheep. They must not do the 3x pricing here. I wonder if it was just this restaurant or all of Portland. If it's all of Portland then much wine will be sliding down my throat.
For an appetizer, we shared some prosciutto wrapped scallops on a bed of carmalized apples. We were a couple of bites in before we remembered to take a picture. Yeah, they were as good as they sound.
For my main course I got the hazelnut encrusted halibut with a lemon beurre blanc with garlic mashed potatoes and golded beets. Yes, I said golden beets. This continued my string of amazing seafood dinners in the Pacific Northwest. Everything was perfect. V had the Marrionberry Salmon which was a bit bland. The meal was over before we remember to take a picture. Sorry.
Finally we enjoyed their Grand Marnier creme brulee. They brought out three, I think, because we were the only ones in the restaurant. This was good, but not as much Grand Marnier flavor as I had hoped.
I really may need to adjust my grading up here. I don't want you guys to think I've gone all soft on you.
1035 SW Stark St Portland, OR 97205
Walking into this place, I got a strong Old Monk vibe. But the place was so well designed and decorated it seemed more like The Idle Rich, only nicer. But there was not a single stripe-shirted douchenozzle (see Shirt Guy) in site.
The beer list here was amazing. There's that word again. I really need to get myself a thesaurus. Of the 50 US brewed beers on tap, I had heard of exactly one -- Lagunitas Maximus. But I went with Bear Republic's Hop Rod Rye. I had had a hoppy rye beer in Vermont a few years ago and really liked it. Since then, I had seen no other rye beer, so I had to have it. And it was staggeringly mind-blowing (yes I fired up Word); a near perfect balance of hoppiness and maltiness. I wish I could describe it as flowerly as true beer nerds. This was my favorite beer of the entire weekend.
My second beer was Port Townsend's Extra Hoppy Hop Diggity. This was a very strong, flavorful beer that probably tasted somewhat like a Christmas tree farm. Don't get me wrong, it was very good.
Foodwise, we started of with the Kaas Croquettes. WOW. These are are emmental battered and hand coated with panko crumbs and deep fried. Oh and if that's not enough for you, there's bacon in the emmental. I could have eaten 10 plates of these, but they only allow you one unless you have a note from your cardiologist.
For my main course I wanted their take on fish and chips and got the Beer Battered Halibut and Frittes with chipotle roumalade and dill tartar sauce. The coating was very unique. It bordered on being a breading. But the star was the actual fish itself. Like Homer, I loves me some tar-tar sauce. And this fish was so good, it didn't even need it. But the chipotle roumalade was too tasty to pass up.
If you like beer and food and breathing (Seattle is smoke free) you will love this place. Sorry, no pix. I forgot my camera.A
400 North 35th Street, Seattle WA.
I really lucked out on this place.
This day, Monday day 12, was the first time I really felt beaten down. After driving from Seattle to Portland I started driving around and progressively started getting more tired. I needed a nap. I didn't quite know where I was. But I at least knew I was in the Portland area. So I decided that the next hotel I saw I was stopping and going to take a nap. Up ahead was a Comfort Inn. So I exited and thought that the entrance was just past the light. It wasn't and now I was back on the highway. The next exit had I Best Western. OK. I've figured this out. So, this time at the light I turn right. Nope, I should have gone straight. Turning back around I got back on the access road, and saw that right next to the Best Western was Gustav's Pub & Grill. Well, no amount of traffic confusion was going to keep me from this place.
I sat at the bar and immediately ordered a Franziskaner. It's a good week when this is the worst beer you've had. For food, I got the crab cake Caesar side salad and the pork schnitzel cordon bleu. Back in my youth, there was a place in Ft. Worth called Der Heidleberger Hof (or some such) which featured schnitzel cordon bleu. This was my "family's" special occasion place and I would always get the cordon bleu.
The salad was good but the crab cakes were just ok. The cordon bleu was very good and the German potato salad had a nice twang. Regrettably there was no room for dessert. But there was plenty of room for more beer. I finished off with an Optimator and several Bridgeport IPAs while chatting with John, this older dude who gave me some good pointers on what to see and not see in the area.
12605 Se 97th Ave Clackamas, OR 97015
- Pub near Meesh's apartment whose name I forget -- this is a classic neighborhood pub. Like all Seattle bars, lots of area microbrews on there many taps. The highlight was chatting with a very drunk dark haired Courtney Love starter kit. While trying to get her friend hooked up with Meesh she kept telling us how she's the only authority on relationships since she's the only one of us that was married. This was a clear reminder of the trueness of The Hammer's statement, "There's nothing better or worse than a drunk chick."
- Old Towne Alehouse - a cool little bar with a nice menu (too full from Duke's to even think of trying anything). Lot's of micros on lots of taps. Pretty much every bar has at least a dozen taps with a dozen brews I've never heard of.
- King's Hardware - we stopped here for one reason and one reason only -- Ski-ball. If I ever own a bar, I'm steeling this idea. They had Lagunitas IPA on tap. Hey, I've heard of that. So I drank it.
- Walla Walla Wine Tating - while walking around the public market one of the specialty food shops had a wine tasting. Their sangiovese was so good I bought a bottle. And if you show up early to my upcoming wine and cheese party, you'll get a sip.
- Pike's Brew Pub - basically a Happy McFunster's style restaurant inside the Market. I had their IPA. It, like all of the beers in this part of the country, was very good.
- Pony - the greatest gay bar I've ever been in (OK, unless you count The Grapevine or The Cockpit, the only gay bar I've been in). The building this bar is in is about to be torn down. And in the interim, the bar owner has decided to have the most offensive bar possible. And he may have succeeded. The walls of this place are covered in old 50s and 60s style naked men -- lots of guys in cowboy hats and the like. They too had a nice array of old school video games such as Ms. Pacman (renamed Ms. Fagman) and Frogger (renamed Flogger). There was also air hockey which Michelle resoundingly beat me several times.
Michelle randomly picked this place near her apartment but far enough away that it provided a nice walk through the area.
You know you're in for a a sushi extravaganza when there are numerous signs around the restaurant all in Japanese. And this place did not disappoint.
We started of with fresh salmon and white tuna sashimi. But as you can see, they had just run out of the white tuna. No worries. The salmon was buttery and flavorful. While the tuna was succulent and and crap I'm running out of synonyms from yummilicious. My only complaint was that these pieces were rather large. And the oddly cut salmon seen in the middle had a strange, honeydew melon-like texture.
The next round of goodies consisted of eel nigiri and one of their signature rolls -- the King Capital Hill Roll. This consisted of baked salmon, their special original creamy sauce, garlic, green onion atop a California Roll. It was very rich and tasty. But again the pieces were on the large side. Even I, with my gaping sushi-hole, could barely get them in my mouth.
Oh, alright, here's another picture.
If I were to live in Seattle, I would not rest until I had tried each and every one of their specialty rolls.
Oh, and a plea to the owners. Please do not server your unfiltered sake in a champagne flute. While this may look elegant, in theory, it is, in fact, not something most people want to look at while dining.
1401 Broadway Ave Seattle, WA 98122
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
I was needing something sweet while driving the PCH and Cowlick's caught my eye. I walked in and was instantly intrigued by many of their offerings -- pumpkin, ginger, chai, mushroom. Huh? Mushroom???
Yeah, they had it. But I don't like mushrooms, so there was no way I would try it. Instead I went with the chai in a sugar cone. It was very creamy with a strong note of cloves.
This is just one of many interesting shops in Fort Bragg's downtown area.
250B N Main St, Fort Bragg CA 95437
So while driving back to Portland I stopped and had the most "Who's on First" ordering experience ever.
"What would you like?", the counter girl asked.
"The number two", was my reply.
Now, this is where things started to deteriorate.
"And to drink?"
"A coke. And I would also like a small blackberry shake."
She blankly stared at me and asked "So you want me to substitute the shake for the coke?"
"No. I would like the coke and the shake"
"I want them both"
"So you want 2?"
"So you want 2 cokes?"
"No, I want 1 of each"
"OK. I've got it. You want two number 1s."
"No. I want a number 2 with a coke AND I want a blackberry shake."
The golded bulb of enlightenment finally went off and I received my order as requested.
The burger itself was very similar to In-N-Out. I guess that's a popular style up here. And the shake was ok. It did indeed have big chunks of fruit. But there was not much berry flavor.
49 Ivy St Kalama, WA
We then started off our seafood orgy with a chowder sampler. The sampler consists of any four of the 7 chowders on the menu. We went with:
- Northwestern Seafood – it was good, but more of a stew than a chowder in my mind. It was the clear fourth place finisher.
- Dungeness Crab – now we’ve reached the upper stratosphere of scrumptiousness. It was rich and creamy with some corn (so Hot Jen may want to avoid).
- Duke’s Traditional Clam -- we have now jumped a quantum or two in deliciousness. This chowder was also rich and creamy with some corn. But it also contained quite a bit of potato. It was almost like the richest, creamiest mashed potatoes you could ever imagine.
- Lobster – we have now gone beyond warp 10 and hit metaphysical taste perfection. So, rich and sweet and, well perfect. This stuff is the crack-cocaine of chowder.
For the main event I ordered halibut fish tacos and Meesh got the stuffed prawns. Who knew so much could be stuffed into a prawn. These things were so stuffed with crab and bay shrimp the fire marshall had to write them a ticket.
The fish tacos were an almost equal delight. The blackened halibut had a flavorful heat. And the Mexican twist was pulled off almost perfectly. Surprising, considering we couldn’t be much further from Mexico.
This is an amazing place for a landlubber from Dallas. I fear I would have to completely re-do my grading scheme if I were to live here.
2516 Alki Ave SW Seattle, WA 98116
Monday, September 17, 2007
I think I completed some sort of alcoholic hat trick today by consuming a bloody mary, several microbrews, wine tasting at the Public Market and finishing the trick with some unfiltered sake.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Well, I guess I was expecting more. I ordered the dungeness crab cakes and grilled red snapper. The crab cakes were a bit too loose and tasted too much of the oil they were cooked in. While the red snapper was fresh tasting. There was virtually no grilled flavor.
Check this place out for the deli and trinkets and fabulous view. But go to either The Inn across the street or one of the many fresh seafood places along the road/bay on the way here.
Sorry JT. No pix.
Hwy 1, Bodega Bay, CA
The journey today started from Arcata CA to Seattle WA. There were not many stops as I need to to get to Seattle as quickly as possible since Michelle had a business trip to take on Monday.
Day 10 Quick Hits:
- No pictures again today. Days 10 and 11 will be combined tomorrow in a gallery.
- Yeah! I found the fleece. I knew if I mentioned that it was MIA, it would show up. Ok, I really didn't, but that's a better story.
- Just crossing into Oregon, and the first small town has a guy at the main intersection holding a sign that says, "HONK if you want to Impeach Bush." Now I studied the constitution in high school and college and even reread it from time to time. I am unfamiliar with any clause that calls for the impeachment of a president based on the number "honks" received at an intersection.
- I got my first gas in Oregon. I forgot that, like New Jersey, there is no self serve gas in Oregon. So I had to have some meth addict pump my gas for me. This will certainly weight heavy on my decision to move here.
- Yikes! Who knew that Oregon would be teaming with white trash. This place is basically Alabama with better weather and mountains.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Today, the Xterra and I journeyed from Santa Rosa to Arcata California. The initial part of the trip went south to just north of San Francisco (confusing?) to pickup California Highway 1 – The Pacific Coast Highway. I was in much need of a change of scenery, and boy did I get it, as the pictures will bear out.
Day 9 Quick Hits
- The first casualty of the trip has occurred. I have been vigilant in keeping track of my possessions. But it appears I have left my gray fleece somewhere.
- Petaluma smelled of shit. This is no doubt what happens when a town goes organic. Or maybe it's all the cattle ranches to the west. I report, you decide.
- So I'm in Petaluma. It's a beautiful day, except for that manure smell. I walk by a 24 Fitness and see all these people sweating on their treadmills and Lifecycles and wonder, "What the fuck is wrong with you? You live in a beautiful city. It's a beautiful day. Get outside and do that shit." I did see lots of bikes as it is.
- I was in Petaluma to visit Lagunitas. Well, I drove by. It's nothing more than one of many business in a very average office park. They were very busy, though. So much so that the truck being loaded blocked the only sign to distinguish this particular business -- thus, no picture.
- Any time I smell the ocean I am immediately taken back to my childhood summers at the Jersey shore. Ahhhhh, good times.
- The PCH is spotted with these tiny little towns like Point Reyes and Bodega Bay. They are like from out of some combination of Frank Capra picture and a Christmas postcard, only without the snow. In fact, much of California's northern coast reminds me of upstate New York and Vermont.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Wow. Really? 8 days. Kick ass and go Stars.
Today's journey took me from Oakhurst CA to Santa Rosa CA. There was very little to see in between; so, no pix today. I'll combine the handful of pictures from Day 8 with the Day 9 pictures.
Day 8 Quick Hits
- At least in the area I'm staying, I declare Santa Rosa the chain restaurant capital of California. If there weren't mountains in the area, I would swear I was in Plano.
- In the Bay Area, lots of bumper stickers and makeshift roadside signs declaring "Impeach Bush", "The War is a Lie" and the like. But the one that really had my head a-scratchin' was on a Prius that said "Nature Bats Last". What does this mean? That nature is the home team and bats at the bottom of the inning and thus has the final say. Or that nature is a weak hitting second baseman and bats 9th. Or is it a product – Nature Bats – and they last longer than Louisville Sluggers.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
I guarantee if this place were in east Texas, Country would be spelled with a K.
This place was a delight. It's exactly the kind of diner I like to see – one harried waitress and one old man on the grill. I, of course, ordered the French Toast combo with scrambled eggs and bacon. This is some of the best French Toast I've had since Vermont. It was fluffy and eggy with a hint of cinnamon. The bacon was mangled and wrinkled; like you get at home, nice. And the eggs tasted like something. Oh, yeah. They tasted like eggs.
The coffee was just ok. Let's be honest, diners don't do coffee well. If you want good coffee you have to go to a specialty coffee shop. Although there are some diners in Vermont that would have something to say about this.
My only complaint concerns their beer menu. No, I didn't order a beer for breakfast. I'm not an alcoholic, as far as you know. But this place also serves lunch and dinner, where a beer would be a beverage one would want to consume. Well, as many places do, the beer Is split into Imported and Domestic lists. And to my amazement, Sierra Nevada was in the Imported list. WHAT??? It couldn't be less imported. You're in the fucking Sierra Nevada mountains!!! It couldn't be less imported if it were called Katie's Country Kitchen Pale Ale. So, please, stop insulting us. Call it Premium and Yellow Swill instead.
This is not the La Quinta Inn I remember. This place was really nice. The soaps were thick, so they didn't break. Seriously hotel, stop giving us soaps the size of the chards we routinely throw out at home. The towels were large and relatively soft. But my favorite little item was the light switches. They glowed. Every fucking hotel has the light switches in different places. How are we supposed to find them in the dark? Well, La Quinta illuminates them.
Oh, and the internet stayed up the whole time.
Attention restaurants of the world. If you want me to say nice things about you, regardless of the quality of your food, supply me with ice cold schooners of Sierra Nevada.
El Torrito basically shared a parking lot with the La Quita I was staying at. So after defying death I showered up, walked over and order a Sierra Nevada.
"Larger or Small", the bartender asked.
Do I even have to tell you my choice?
I went simple and ordered the Beef Fajitas, and munched on the chips and salsa. The chips were the thick hearty kind like you get at On The Border. Normally that would be a minus. But I actually like their chips. They're usually what I buy from the store. The salsa was fresh with some nice heat and a back note of oregano. Christ I'm starting to sound really gay with this stuff.
The fajitas were ok. The accompanying tortillas were fresh. There was a tiny side of corn pudding which was great. Hey, could we have something more than a half teaspoon???
I assume this is a California chain of some sort. And I would normally rip this place, I'm sure. But given the events of the day and the deliciously cold Sierras, I'm going to be generous.
This stark landscape seen above was forged by glaciers. That's right I said glaciers. But the glaciers are all gone now. Thanks to the Republicans in Washington and there Big Oil taskmasters, over the last several million years these glaciers have melted; leaving nothing but this.
Please people, do something; sign up for Green Mountain Energy, buy a Prius. Just do something to reduce your carbon footprint. If we all act together, maybe our grandchildren will see Yosemite as it is meant to be – ensconced in glacial ice.
I certainly didn't plan to do so much driving today. After all, I'm staying in the same hotel two nights in a row. But, after doing Glacier Point and Yosemite Valley, I let at a yawn and asked, "Is that all there is?" I checked the map and saw there was an east-west road that went through the park. I thought maybe there would be stuff to see there. The problem, however, was I would be so far away from my hotel once on the other side. Instead of going back through the park, I decided to go up and over the park. Not realizing how slow one has to drive through whindy mountain roads, I miscalculated when I would get home. I had figured around 8ish. Plenty of time to swing by a local restaurant that had caught my eye – Crab Cakes. But I got home at 10:30pm. Even the Taco Bell was closed. So I went to the liquor store and picked up a sixer of the eponymous Sierra Nevada.
Speaking of whindy mountain roads, I've had about and ass-full of them. These mountain roads truly are like discarded string tossed upon the mountainside disguising the face of the devil. Yeah I stole that one. So, I'm cutting my stay at Yosemite short. I had originally planned 1 day at Sequoia and 2 days here. So I reversed them. It is all largely the same stuff. And I'm eager to see something different. So I'm heading to Petaluma to worship at the altar of Lagunitas.
Day 7 Quick Hits
- OK. Now I'm really scared. There are leather clad German bikers staying at my hotel.
- You've seen the signs all your life: Deer X-ing. Well, I actually saw it happen on the Sonora Pass Road. I just don't know where they got the glow sticks.
- More foreigners at Yosemite. The Germans still were the most vocal/visible. But this time there were quite a number of Chinese and Aussies. There was also a Polish family and a couple that spoke some combination of Spanish sounds and eastern Europe. Still very few Americans except for old tour groups. Clearly the Euros know when to come to our national parks so they don't have to interact with us dirty Americans.
- It is very windy and very chilly at 9500 feet.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I hope I haven't frightened anyone with my not posting last night. I got into the hotel in Oakhurst late and I was very tired after a long day.
Today's journey took me from Fresno to Oakhurst with a visit to Kings Canyon National Park and a return visit to Sequoia. I wanted to see if I could successfully complete a trip there without getting myself lost.
Day 6 Quick Hits
- What an interesting smell this morning in Fresno. It's reminiscent of growing up in Ft. Worth and the wind would shift and the stench of the stockyards (back when there was actual stock there) would fill the city.
- With all this mountain driving I've been doing, I've have opportunity to use my extensive "Hot Brakes Fail" training. That was pretty much a joke for one reader.
- I'm sure you're asking how I could possibly afford all the entry fees to all the parks I've been to. I must be filthy rich. Well, yes I am. And thank you for asking. But the parks service has, for just $80 an annual pass that gets you into all the Nation Parks/Forests/Monuments and the like. Had I not had the pass, I would have already spent over $100. The Grand Canyon alone was $25. And I still have 3 or 4 more parks to go to.
- For some reason, every third car I see at Sequoia/Kings is a PT Cruiser.
- The Germans have moved from the Grand Canyon and have invaded Sequoia. Shouldn't they be home getting ready for Oktoberfest?
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I should probably start this post with some sort of fancy literary contrivance. After all, I now have readers such as The Irishman and Roz whom I don't even know. And I know that Roz has told her friends about this blog. So the pressure is on now to deliver the goods. Those Adsense pennies will be pouring in if this post turns out to be interesting or funny. I'm sure I'll get at least a nickel from Google if it's both.
But I'm not going to bury the lead here. Although I fear I may already have. So dump all of that. Start over.
OK. Here goes. I almost died today – TWICE.
Due to ill planning on my part and road construction at the Sequoia Nation Park, I arrived rather late – about 1pm. Well, actually I got to the Museum, roughly in the middle of the park, at 1pm. It is from here that several casual hiking trails begin. So I gave the XTerra a somewhat long and borderline creepy hug goodbye and took off toward one of those trails. I chose the Sunset Rock trial to begin with. It was only 0.9 miles and, hey, it sounded so romantic. I would say that after the first .25 miles, none of the mass of people that had parked by the museum could even be heard. No one else was on the trail. But, like I said, it was an easy trail. Live a little people. But I'm glad. I hate people and like to enjoy my nature in quiet.
As is my predilection, I took a number of pictures, almost all of which can be viewed in a later posting. Not too many rock pictures were taken today, like yesterday. Instead, as Kris10 can attest, I have a penchant for the crazy looking log. It is my egret of the forest.
So, about ¾ miles into the hike, I look over to my right and think "Oh good Christ. They have the gall to put up a Papier-mâché 10 point buck on this trail just to delight the mid-American hoople-heads
But then it moved.
It is then that it sinks in that I'm 10 feet away from a real live 10 point buck with nothing to defend myself but my RAZR2 and my scathing wit. He was definitely giving me the old stink eye. I quickly took several pictures of him before he gored me. Although I'll be dead, I thought, at least my blog friends will have some kick ass pix.
I slowly walk back up the trail. I'll have to do without finding the end of the Sunset Rock Trail. He munched on some delicious vegetation. With a giant mouthful of leafy-greens in his mouth (which really is where you would expect a mouthful of anything to be), I realize I could probably pass him. I move back towards him and he drops the mouthful of greens. Ooops, I thought. But he's not making a move to me. So I continue. He backs away a little, still keeping an eye on me. I finally move past him and meet up with a couple who have also noticed him.
"Hey. Have you seen any bears?" one of them says.
"No. Why", I ask.
"Someone said they saw a mother and her cub cross this very path earlier"
"Oh wow. Good times", I reply.
I continue on to the Sunset Rock and take several pictures. There is a sign that says "Marble Bridge 2.6 miles" and points to the east. I figure I could do that. I've got plenty of time. It's only 2pm. I've got a least 4 more hours of quality sunlight left. This first trail was a easy. Why not? I had not planned on taking a longer hike. I had not brought any water, Clifbars, maps or, most importantly, my GPS device. But I'm invincible. I just stared down a buck.
The trail started out pretty easy and I was able to take some great pictures. There was a single, beautiful blue bird feather on the ground. I had to take a picture of that. I continued hiking until suddenly I could no longer find the path. I looked around and saw nothing. It had dead ended. Ok. Well, I'm not that interested in the bridge and it was too far to go anyway. So I headed back. But heading back did not look familiar. And then the path back dead ended. A little panic set in. I looked around and saw what looked to be the path above me. So I scrambled up the mountain and f no path. Again I look around and think I see the path below me. I scrambled back down the mountain barely avoiding what appeared to be poison oak and indeed found a path. The Sunset Rock was to the west, the same direction as the sun, so I followed this new path to the west. Well, that is, until it also dead ended.
I continued this nonsense of scrambling up and down the mountain for 30 minutes until I found a real, solid path. It is here that I realized that I must have missed a switchback somewhere. And others had missed it and created a path beyond the switchback.
So I had to decide which way to go. I knew that Sunset Rock was to the west. You look at the sunset there, right. So, the sun is currently west. I need to go toward the sun. So, that's the way I go – west. But the path almost immediately switches back east into the deep forest. "Well, it will switch back to the west, I'm sure", I think.
The trail becomes progressively less maintained the deeper I go. I'm starting to panic. I realize I'm may have to spend the night in the forest with mamma bear, her cub and her husband. And I'm pretty sure they don't have cable. So I'm going to miss Monday Night Football.
"OK. That's it", I think, "I'm heading back the other way." Then, the trail abruptly switches up and to the west. It's going towards the sun. It's going towards where I need to go.
A slight feeling of relief fills me as sweat pours down my face. After several minutes I lose that confidence. And then I look down and see a blue bird feather. Was this the feather I took a picture of? I continue on, now with the needle edging above E on the confidence meter. I see a freshly cut log with a crack through the center. I'm sure I saw this before. More and more things start to look familiar as more and more I believe I just might make it out of the forest in some form other than bear poo.
Eventually, I see the Sunset Rock. I've made it. I've cheated death or at least a miserable night in the forest.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Now this is a place to stay. I just wish I hadn't gotten here so late, around 11pm, and so tired. This is an old school motor hotel with a South Pacific tiki tourch/Trader Vick's like theme. The pool, with its clubhouse bar (nice) had numerous torches surrounding it. And the "lobby" was paneled with bamboo. The room itself was slightly larger than normal. The towels were large and soft. The shampoos were of high quality. Since I don't use them, I took them for whatever guests I might have at my house. These go to someone I'm trying to impress. The soaps were also nice with a citrusy scent.
411 E. Palm Canyon Palm Springs, CA
In-N-Out burger is a veritable institution in California. Its reputation as the best fast food burger in California traveled to Dallas through numerous Cowboy Training camp visits from The Ticket guys. Trips to the In-N-Out were usually the denouement of any late night drunken Corby story. So the second I crossed the border and saw my first In-N-Out, I headed right to the drive-thru.
The menu of In-N-Out is very simple – Hamburger, Cheeseburger, Double Double. You then tell them if you want it with onions and if you want fries or a drink. No Chipotle Guacamole Angus on Chibatta here. So, I ordered a Double Double with onions but no cheese. I later checked the website and it said I should have order just a Double Meat. Next time I guess.
The burger was very good. It is very reminiscent of a Whataburger. It has that same flavor, only maybe a little juicier. The fries were generic fast food fries.
While I think it did live up to its reputation, I don't think it is overall as good as Whataburger since I could not put bacon or jalapenos on it.
Multiple locations in California, Arizona and Nevada
Many of the interstates I have traveled on so far have had Business extensions that were once part of the historic US 66. So when I get a chance I always take the extension so I can see the town. On my way from the Grand Canyon I hit IH 40 outside of Williams Arizona and it too had an old Route 66/Business 40 extension. So I took it and ended up in tiny downtown Williams hungry and thinking I could use some of that Arizona style Mexican and American food. Poncho McGillacuddy's beckoned.
I walked in and saddled up to the bar, which is what you do in the desert southwest, and ordered me a Shiner and their Diablo Steak. Mmmmmm, the Shiner was cold and tasty, reminding me of many such sips in Texas. The Diablo Steak didn't quite live up to the Shiner. The steak itself was small and very very very very (how many can I use???) chewy. And the spicy green sauce that was atop the steak (the Diablo part) was white-people hot. It came with rice and beans. And while the beans were good, who really cares.
Somehow, after nearly two days of travel, I had yet to have an actual meal. No, I do not consider truck stop chimichangas a real meal. So next to my hotel in Flagstaff was a Villiage Inn. On first impression it appeared to be like Tippons was when it existed. That is, a standard chainish style Denny's/IHOP knockoff, but that specialized in pies.
Well, things didn't start out well. I scanned the menu and saw very little that tempted me. And please remember, I hadn't eaten anything but Clifbars, Larabars and the above mentioned chimichangas in two days. I settled for the turkey dinner. The turkey wasn't bad for obviously coming from a roll. And the corn was clearly from a can. But that's ok. It's a chain diner. You expect that.
What I didn't expect were the mashed potatoes and "fluffy" biscuit. These potatoes might as well have had Elmer's emblazoned on them. They were flavorless and thin. This is a comfort food restaurant and the cornerstone of comfort food is mashed potatoes. Nobody's mom made mashed potatoes out of a box. Well nobody's who really loved them.
But the most felonious of felonies perpetrated by this so-called restaurant was its biscuits. Yes they were indeed fluffy. But that's about all I can say about them. They had a crisp outer crust that tasted like pretzels. While that fluffy inside tasted of, well, nothing. Look, biscuits are easy – flour, shortening, buttermilk, a little salt, a little butter, a little baking powder, a little baking soda, mix roll, cut bake. The only trick is the buttermilk. You have to have it. Without it, no flavor.
Ok, Steve, this is a pie place. Tell us about that. Ok, I will. It wasn't much better. I got a coconut cream pie. It was average at best. The custard had only a slight coconut flavor and the crust was bland as well. Christ, the fucking Sodexho cafeteria at Nortel had better coconut cream pie. And, while a place like Tippons or the great House of Pies in Houston had/have dozens of different types of pies. This place had about one dozen types. So, it's not exactly a pie place either. It's just a place that sucks.
Multiple locations around Arizona.
I was a little worried when the kid behind the counter looked like a young AJ Soprano with a Bam Marjara hat. But the place was ok – about to be excpected with this class of hotel. The towels were small and rough. The soaps were nothing to write home about. It's only standout feature was an internet connection that never dropped. Oh, how I wish I could experience that again as I write this in the shitty Days Inn in Barstow where the internet is serious need of some Cialis to stay up longer. Sorry for being Obvious Joke Guy. I'm better than that.
This place was pretty much the same as the Super 8, only twice as expensive. It's my bad. I didn't know if I could make it to Flagstaff in two days. So I didn't make any reservations. It also loses points for being next to The Village Inn.
I forgot to start the GPS until I was already an hour into trip. It lost mostly the drive down E. Canyon Blvd and a little of the drive on I-10 to Joshua Tree.
Today's journey took me from Palm Springs through Rancho Mirage and Indio, to Joshua Tree National Park ending up in Barstow. With the Cowboy opener, and to rest a bit, there was a very limited amount of driving today.
Day 4 Quick Hits
- While sitting at Sloan's I noticed a crotchety old man and his wife walk in. He had a big puss on his face and waved his hand at the hostess and told her, angrily "Just sit us". Once at their table he wouldn't sit because "there's goddamn water on this chair." Now, there were four chairs to choose from. Given that his wife should take a dry one, that leaves two dry seats. So why make a big thing about it and stand until that chair is dried? Seriously, what makes people get like this, so bitter and angry at everything? I know what did it for me. But I want to know what happened to others.
- While driving to Barstow, in one of the little towns on the way I witnessed this 600 lbs. dude (at least) cross the street in his Rascal. And I've wondered for a while if we as a society should allow the morbidly obese access to Rascals and the like. Do we really want to make it easier to get to the Carl's Jr? And, yes, there was really a Carl's Jr across the street, where he was heading. The old people can still have access. Shit, I just picked up a catalog my own self.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Day 3 travel took me from Flagstaff AZ to Palm Springs CA with a detour through Sunset Crater National Park, Wapatki National Monument and the Grand Canyon.
Day 3 Quick Hits
- In Arizona there are no Mexican Restaurants. They're all called Mexican and American restaurants. I guess they're still feeling the sting of giving up the Gadsden Purchase.
- While standing at Starbucks in Flagstaff I saw this dude and wondered "Do the guys with the large flat-billed trucker hats know how ridiculous they look. Do chicks dig it??"
- On the way up to the GC, every lookout point has a Navajo trinkets booth. It's the usual stuff -- pottery, blankets, jewelry. Isn't it time to update the Native American image? Maybe sell a line of fine fountain pens, or maybe sign people up for Dish Network. Just sayin.
- It was amazing that most of the people visiting , and it was crowded at the GC, did not speak English. In fact it seemed as though most spoke French, with another large protion speaking German.
- I'm not an anti-smoking guy. But shouldn't you leave the smokes at home when going to a National Park? There's all this delicious, pine-fresh mountain air to breath. So, dude in the goofy bike hat, do you really need a smoke at every lookout point??
- I filled the Xterra up with gas in Needles, CA. It had to be well over 100° at 7pm.
- While driving into California, everyone, not just trucks, have to stop and be asked about if you're carrying any fresh fruits, veggies etc. You read it here first. California -- Nazi-like police state.
- For about 90 minutes in Cali, I had to drive on a small, two-lane desert highway. It was dark, dusty, undulating and quite scary. I couldn't help but wonder if an over-enunciating Tina Turner would greet me at the end of the trip and inexplicably refer to me as Raggedy Man.
- Also, on that desert hiway, I saved the life of a desert fox by not running him over.
- Day 4 Preview: Joshua Tree National Park
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Friday, September 7, 2007
It was much harder to find WiFi in New Mexico and Arizona. But on the good side, many many many more pictures were taken. The journey today started in Las Vegas, NM and ended in Flagstaff AZ with stops in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Petrified Forest National Park featuring the Painted Desert. Meteor Crater was closed when I got there. Probably spent to much time in looking for parking in Sante Fe.
Day 2 Quick Hits
- Beautiful clear, cool morning -- 60° ish.
- What is with the douche wearing a Bluetooth at the complimentary continental breakfast. He's staying at a Super8 for chrisake with his wife and 3 kids. Who's he trying to impress, Sanjiv behind the checkin desk?
- Note to the people of Santa Fe. I get it. You guys really really like adobe. Now let's move on.
- I nominate Santa Fe as the best city in the US to play Homeless Guy or College Student.
- Speaking of the homeless, what's with letting them sell newspaper in the middle of the street?
- Despite my rant, there is a definite pleasing aesthetic in New Mexico. Most everything looks nice. I saw a Burger King that was gorgeous.
- I'm starting to think that planning to go to the Grand Canyon on a Saturday was not the smartest thing I ever did. What was? Shortening "Too much information!" to "TMI!"
Thursday, September 6, 2007
The change in elevation.
Somewhere around Archer City I called an audible and decided not to go to Palo Duro canyon tomorrow. I conceivably can go there anytime. This trip is a rare opportunity to see the great National Parks of California. So I increased my driving for today to get to Cali a bit earlier. So, instead of stopping in Amarillo, I've stopped in Vegas Baby!!!! Well, Las Vegas New Mexico.
Day 1 Quick Hits
- In Quanah, Corby's default small Texas town, I intersected with Highway 6. I guess they're right. It really does go both ways.
- Just west of Amarillo there is a giant windmill farm. So that's where my Green Mountain Energy dollars are going.
- The disappearance of the mighty DQ does not seem to have spread through the panhandle. I was tempted many times to get me a delicious Blizzard.
- Amarillo is the most disappointing city in Texas. Texas Burger Guy has declared the #1 burger in Texas is in Amarillo at a place called Boondock's. So I tried to go there only to find that it had been shut down like a common lower greenville Irish pub. A second burger joint also on the list was also closed. But it appears, at least, to still be in business.
- The XTerra has a "Distance To Empty" indicator. It was 120 from Tucumcari to Las Vegas. The DTE said 130 and I figured there would be at least 1 gas station on the way. There wasn't. Luckily I had enough gas.
- There were also no rest areas. And about 20 miles from Las Vegas the 32oz Aquafina I purchased in Amarillo demanded to be released from my bladder. So I found a relatively safe place to pull over and met it's demands. And then I looked skyward to a cloudless night sky and saw 1,000,000 times more stars than I have ever seen in my life.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Live From Congress: The Skull Fucking Bill Of 2007